Saturday, September 30, 2006

Music as a Clue to Meaning

There was a time in my life when I played the piano
(and keyboards) on a fairly regular basis, completely by ear,
taking a lot of time to "sound out" songs based on what
I could hear in my head... Though I don't play much
anymore, I used to be able to sit at the piano and play
music that I personally enjoyed, and that others sometimes
heard and enjoyed along with me...

Someone commented to me once about my playing that
while other people they knew who had taken years of piano
lessons may play all the notes with technical skill, my playing
(they noted) was MUSIC...

I've never forgotten that. And I think this is a very good
metaphor for the Christian World View: The modern Reductionist
wants us to believe that there IS no real Meaning, that all of
Life, throughout the Universe and across all Space and Time,
is merely "notes", Atoms and Energy doing what they do, and
that none of it has any metaphysical significance at all...

Yet they turn right around and call things "beautiful",
things like Music and a Sunset and a child's face, and they
apparently fail to see the profound Contradiction in their
stated Word View and how it plays out in their Experiences:

There was something about the music I played that distinguished
it from merely hitting the proper notes in the proper sequence;
call it "dynamics" or "soul" or whatever, but the mechanics
of my playing seemed to point to something not found in the mere
"notes" themselves, much the same way that a Song on the radio
is modulated by the radio frequency but not found IN
the frequency itself...

Find any tree during this Fall season, with its changing colors
and striking contrasts, and go up to it and pluck some of its leaves
and carve out a piece of its bark, and feel, smell, and taste
these things; you will only experience Atoms, but NOT the Beauty which
those elements point to... Listen to a piece of music that moves you, and
you will NOT be telling your close friends about a particular
arrangement of "notes" but of the rapturous "state" to which
that music carried you...

This, then, is yet another "clue" as to the Meaning of the Universe.
Observations about FACTS cannot themselves BE among the facts observed, and the mind doing the observing must be outside the Facts...
If I am moved by the sound of a beautiful piece of music, there must be
something beyond the notes that is calling to me, and something
more than just my brain matter that senses that call... And it is the chasing after whatever "IT" is that is the stuff of Metaphysics, not the scientific study
of Atoms and Energy... So much for "Science" explaining God away...

Consequently, the world of the Naturalist/Reductionist is stale,
technical, and spectacularly NOT Beautiful. Once again, the
Christian World View has an answer to this mystery, and the answer
is that we are not only transcendant Beings but beings for whom
NO present Beauty is completely and comprehensively satisfying...

If there really ARE such things as Truth, and Beauty, and Goodness,
they must have their grounding and emminence in something beyond
the mere Facts we experience... And since the only thing that can
transcend Matter is MIND, it would seem that a transcendent Mind
must be the Source which gives us even our first inklings of what
these things are and why they are universally impactful..

Christianity refers to this Mind as a PERSON, the God we worship
and to Whom our internal compasses naturally and unflappably point.

Blessed be HE, who Is and Was and Always Shall Be.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Two halves of the Whole

One of the primary realizations I had during my years as a
functional Atheist was that that particular World View only
treated half of what might be termed "the Human Condition";
Consider this:

A Christian and an Atheist are the presenters at some local
college, debating, say, the existence of God... The debate is
intellectually stimulating and lively, and the Q&A session with
the students is interesting...

But then the presentations are over, the students file out of
the building, and the two speakers close their briefcases and
exit the stage through a side door and into the alley,
to their cars...

At that moment, they cease to be "speakers" and go back to
being, well, people: They both have worries and concerns,
children and mortgages, papers to write, email to answer,
dogs to feed at home and spouses who will ask how
the conference went...

Of the two, whose World View easily shifts to the more
personal side of his existence? The Atheist must "console"
himself with his belief that the Universe is a cold, massive
expanse of mysterious matter, and that the emergence of
Intelligence -- complete with Joys, Duty, Pleasure and Pain,
Values, Morality, LOVE, etc. -- is nothing more than a cosmic
accident, an against-all-odds mishap of exponential proportions,
all of which comes to a meaningless ENDING at Death without
the slightest bit of significance beyond what he, in ridiculously
fickle wishfulness, chooses to assign to it...

But the Christian is perfectly free to enjoy the the benefits of
Meaning both beyond as well as within the Universe, and to
appeal to a Mind that gives purpose and meaning and significance
to even the weakest Intelligence among us, and whose very
existence provides the Hope that some of us will not only, one day,
enjoy Him forever, but the satisfaction and Joy of beginning to
enjoy Him here, in this life... The same God for the mind is God
for the heart, the infinite First Cause and the personal Father...

Summarily, the Christian World View engages BOTH sides of what
we yearn for as Human Beings -- TRUTH and BEAUTY -- a
unification of Mind and the Heart, while the Atheist must shoulder
a vacuous and bitter Emptiness here which ends in Annihilation;
and so I found that I could not reconcile this nearly universal, innate
yearning -- our instinctive search for Meaning, even Belonging --
with a World View that is predicated on such Randomness,
and then, Final Despair...

There are 2 caveats for Christians, here:

1. We cannot simply focus on the emotional delights of our
World View and live as if the mind does not matter... We are
to always be ready to give a REASON for the Hope
that is within us, and FACT must come before FAITH...

Indeed, Christians who do not have a solid, philosophical
grounding for their Beliefs are missing out on an
enormous body of material that could profoundly deepen
their Faith and impact their lives; the "I don't need
philosophy, I've got my faith" approach is like ignoring
a birthday letter from your father because you just want
the $20 bill he put inside for you... Faith without
REASON is ignorant and incomplete...

2. We must not live as if the present World is of little
consequence; indeed, the foundational Truth of our faith is that
what we do here very MUCH matters to God, a God who invaded
our present Reality to make access to His world a reality for
those of us who believe... We are told that we are LIARS if we
say we love God (the "sweet by-and-by") if we do not love
our neighbor (the "here-and-now")...

Any World View that does not thoroughly appeal to BOTH
the Mind and the Heart is incomplete; and I have not found
any other beyond Christianity that does so, and in such
a way as to make our LOVING GOD, the Lover of our
very Souls, the focal point of ALL of existence...